CLEANLINESS standards at one of Scotland’s leading maternity hospitals were today condemned by Scotland’s healthcare watchdog.
Inspectors from the Healthcare Environment Inspectorate, who made an unannounced visit to Aberdeen Maternity Hospital in September, uncovered evidence of “significant contamination” to patient equipment in the procedure room and theatre at the hospital.
The inspection, which followed two earlier visits in which “significant concerns” had been raised about the cleanliness in the neonatal unit, found:
• Blood contamination and damage to the operating theatre bed in both the theatre and procedure room.
• Body fluids on the cot sheet in the theatre.
• Significant dust in an area of the theatre’s anaesthetic room.
• A broken incubator mattress in the theatre which could not be effectively cleaned
• And an oxygen mask was perished and broken and could not be effectively cleaned .
HEI inspectors first visited the maternity hospital on 21 August. Due to significant concerns raised about the cleanliness in the neonatal unit, they carried out a follow-up inspection on 5 September, followed by another unannounced visit to the theatre and procedure room on 17 September .
The damning report reveals that. during their initial visit, inspectors found three of the seven mattresses they checked in the labour ward and two other maternity wards were contaminated with blood or other body fluids.
They also found contamination to incubators and cots, which were in use by patients in the neonatal unit, dust on the floor, monitor stands, and ventilator equipment in the equipment store of the neonatal unit, body fluids on the walls and ledges at the back of incubator spaces in the intensive care unit, and blood staining on the underside of mattresses in the labour ward.
HEI inspectors also identified a number of problems with the storage of expressed breast milk at the hospital.
Concerns raised with Government
Susan Brimelow, the HEI’s Chief Inspector, revealed today that she had been so concerned with the issues the inspection team had uncovered that she had raised her concerns with the Scottish Government.
She said: “I am very disappointed at the findings from our inspection to Aberdeen Maternity Hospital and because of the serious nature of the findings, I escalated my concerns to Scottish Government. Inspectors visited Aberdeen Maternity Hospital on three separate occasions, and on all inspections the cleanliness of patient equipment and the environment were not satisfactory. Every patient coming into hospital should expect their local hospital to be clean and safe.”
The HEI has drawn up a seven point action for urgent improvements at the maternity hospital, including a demand that expressed breast milk is stored appropriately and that documentation reflects best practice, ensuring that the storage of expressed breast milk is managed in a way that reduces the risk to patients.
NHS Grampian has also been ordered to ensure that senior charge nurses and senior charge midwives have accountability for ward cleanliness. and to review the storage areas in the neonatal unit to allow for stock rotation of the equipment required for the department.
Richard Carey, the chief executive of NHS Grampian said: “It is vitally important that we learn from this inspection and act swiftly on its recommendations. That is what we have done and has been acknowledged by the inspectors. Patient safety is at the core of what we do and remains a top priority for all our staff to whom I am very grateful for their tireless efforts to address the Inspectorate’s concerns.”
‘Standards not met’
A spokesman for NHS Grampian said: “We acknowledge that at the time of the inspection in August there were areas where our normally high standards of environmental cleanliness were not being met. This is disappointing for a hospital with a very good record in infection control and for whom preventing the spread of infections is a priority.
“However our clear focus is on addressing the issues raised in the report of the first visit as a matter of urgency. We are pleased that the progress being made is reflected in the follow up inspections and that marked improvements to general cleanliness levels were found by the inspectors.”
He continued: “ All of the issues raised in the report have been tackled as a matter of urgency and all the requirements and recommendations are being addressed. Most of the actions have already been completed and the remainder are at an advanced stage of implementation.”
The spokesman added: “The report also highlights shortfalls in the operating theatre at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital. A new theatre had already been planned and will be opening very soon. The issue with theatres reflects the wider difficulties associated with maintaining infection control and other technical standards in aging hospitals such as Aberdeen Maternity Hospital. NHS Grampian’s position is that plans will need to be drawn up in the next few years for a replacement at Foresterhill for the existing maternity hospital.”
Richard Baker, the North east Labour MSP, said: “This is a very concerning report into cleanliness at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital, particularly given the efforts which have been made to improve cleanliness in NHS Grampian following critical reports in 2009 and 2010.
“Patients must be reassured that hospital facilities are clean and that is why the leadership of NHS Grampian must act speedily to address the issues raised in this report. But the reality is that our health board is not being given the resources it needs by the Scottish Government and that makes the job of our local board all the more challenging in tackling serious issues such as this.”
He added: “Patients and there relatives rightly have an expectation that hospital facilities will at least be clean. With the recent scandals surrounding hospital acquired infections we should not be hearing about problems with cleanliness.”